De­fi­ant Ac­tivists Re­ject Bail In Karen Mar­tyrs’ Day Case

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Win Nan­dar

Three Karen rights cam­paign­ers in­clud­ing the prom­i­nent ac­tivist Naw Ohn Hla have de­clined to ap­ply for bail to show their de­fi­ance against charges which they say amount to an at­tack on the rights of Myan­mar’s eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

The ac­tivists, who also in­clude Saw Al­bert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min, were charged for hold­ing an unau­tho­rised protest af­ter they or­gan­ised a Karen Mar­tyrs’ Day cel­e­bra­tion at­tended by around 100 peo­ple in Yangon’s Ma­ha­ban­doola Park last month.

Au­thor­i­ties have banned the use of the term mar­tyrs in re­la­tion to the cer­e­mony, which com­mem­o­rates the as­sas­si­na­tion in 1950 of Karen eth­nic leader Saw Ba U Gyi.

Naw Ohn Hla and her co-de­fen­dants on Tues­day de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to a pre-trial meet­ing with the judge and the pros­e­cu­tion to dis­cuss de­tails such as which wit­nesses they will call.

“I can’t co­op­er­ate with them. I won’t go to the meet­ing be­cause ev­ery­thing we did was le­gal,” Naw Ohn Hla told re­porters as she left the court.

A crowd of about 100 peo­ple made up of mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Party for a New So­ci­ety, for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and Karen ac­tivists at­tended the hear­ing.

Saw Al­bert Cho, 26, said au­thor­i­ties did not want Karen peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing their own mar­tyrs’ day.

“If we were given per­mis­sion, we could have cel­e­brated in a church or monastery. The main prob­lem is the Yangon gov­ern­ment. We had to ask to gather un­der the Peace­ful Assem­bly and Pro­ces­sion Law be­cause the Yangon gov­ern­ment didn’t give us per­mis­sion,” he said.

“Even then, they didn’t let us use the term ‘Karen Mar­tyrs’ Day,’” he added. Af­ter the cel­e­bra­tion, Kyauk­tada town­ship po­lice sta­tion’s chief U Myo Thant reg­is­tered Naw Ohn Hla, Saw Al­bert Cho and Sathein Zaw Min as fugi­tives at Kyauk­tada court, and Naw Ohn Hla was ar­rested on Septem­ber 9.

The three were de­clared fugi­tives by Yangon po­lice shortly af­ter the commemorat­ion cer­e­mony. Naw Ohn Hla was ar­rested on Septem­ber 9 while the Saw Al­bert Cho and Sa Thein Zaw Min handed them­selves in on Mon­day. The three are be­ing held at In­sein prison.

The next hear­ing is sched­uled for Tues­day next week, when pros­e­cu­tion wit­nesses will be cross-ex­am­ined, the court said.

Saw Ba U Gyi, who Karen ac­tivists say was killed by the Tatam­daw, led armed Karen rebels in the fight for au­ton­omy in the years af­ter Myan­mar gained in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain.

Ac­tivists at the court. Photo: Myan­mart Now

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